Have you ever visited the GROW gallery and wondered, “When will the aquaponics greenhouse ever be open?!” Well, you’re in luck! Thanks to safety improvements made by our exhibits department, the greenhouse is now open for self-guided exploration during the Science Center’s normal operating hours. We were able to creatively reuse material from the recently renovated OMNIMAX theater to build protective barriers to ensure curious kiddos do not get too close to the fish tanks.

Additional improvements are on the way! Thanks to a grant from the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, we are working on improved signage to better explain the hydroponic systems on display in the greenhouse and highlight careers in the indoor growing industry, ranging from aquaponic farming to lighting design.
We will also host a teen from the Youth Exploring Science (YES) program, who will be stationed primarily at the greenhouse this summer. The teen will be available to chat with guests while making observations on successes and challenges impacting productivity. These observations will be published on our website blog for those interested in the latest happenings in the greenhouse!

As June kicks off, we are entering the greenhouse’s most challenging season. Summer is brutal for the crops, because the water gets so warm it’s hard for plants to get enough oxygen. This creates opportunities for pathogens to thrive. Lettuce is known for tolerating low oxygen levels but typically cannot tolerate heat. We are experimenting with different heat-tolerant lettuce varieties and will observe which, if any, make it into the summer.

We have also had a big increase in pest pressure compared with previous years. Many crops are covered in aphids, leafhoppers, thrips and more, which directly damage leaves and transfer disease. Hot peppers, for example, that have thrived in previous seasons had to be removed this year because they were so smothered by aphids. We will experiment with planting an ornamental hibiscus (related to cotton and okra) in its place and observe how it tolerates an aquaponics environment.

Stay tuned to learn more, and let us know what questions you have about the GROW aquaponics greenhouse!

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